Resolving Negativity in the Office

Since dealing with staff bickering and personality conflicts can be a major source of stress in an office, knowing how to deal with it can be extremely useful. When you let employee situations linger too long, bad things happen, and you can end up losing not only the problem employee but other good employees as well. So, when you encounter two or more employees feuding, our recommendation for you is to find out as quickly as possible who seems to be instigating the problem, as well as determine which of the two employees is the most productive, and to quickly nip it in the bud.

Normally, when a feud is going on, other staff members have either been involved or have observed it in one form or another. It usually bothers them as well, even if they are not directly involved. What we recommended to practice owners is to interview these peripheral staff and get a more neutral opinion of what’s going on and who is really causing the problem. Also, interview the staff involved and get their respective sides of the story. From this you should be able to find out who the real problem employee is.

ACT FAST! The longer you let something like this linger, the greater the odds that you will lose not only the problem employee, but the good employee and possibly other staff members who are sick of being involved in that type of work environment. If you act swiftly on such matters, you will keep your employees happy.

There’s another very important point: the longer this kind of thing is allowed to continue in your office, the more likely it is that other staff members will start to feel that their workplace is not safe. They will also feel that the owner is not in control of the office and that they may want to find a better environment to work in. You could end up losing a really good employee because you didn’t confront the problem and act swiftly and appropriately.

Having the right office policy and job descriptions in place to govern acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace will give you an important foundation to stand on when handling this kind of situation. Lack of such policy can make the workplace less than harmonious. And don’t forget to document, document, document the non-optimum issues in writing and what was done to handle the people involved. Without documentation, you can open yourself up to potential legal issues.

The “staff infection” is a term that I came up with long ago to discuss the effects that a negative employee can have on a team and how fast it can spread. Similar to how the “Staphylococcus Infection” is dangerous to the body.

The “staff infection” starts in various ways, such as with a staff member that often rolls his or her eyes at staff meetings. This staff member engages in rumormongering and can be counted on to “stir the pot” in the office. This can be the idle staff member or the person who always seems to be busy but gets nothing done. You get the idea. This is the employee that you are “just not sure about.”

What would you think of a doctor that did not practice good sepsis control and permitted Staphylococcus germs to fester in or on his or her equipment? It simply does not make sense, does it? Nobody would do that. Preventing any sort of infection in a patient is more than second nature to any doctor. What would your opinion be of a doctor that was aware that his or her patient had an obvious staph infection but did nothing about it? Enough said.

Let’s look at the practice as an individual body. The office has an organic nature: it seems to grow and contract. It reacts to the changes in its environment. It is made up of individual units working together, similar to cells in a body. And just like any organic body, the practice is susceptible to infection. Failing to handle this infection when it first presents itself can be fatal.

I wish that I could tell you that handling a “staff infection” was a simple routine, something like, “Just do this one thing, and your disease will clear up.” Well, I can’t. However, I can give you some tips that just might help.

Do not let “staff infection” fester after the first sign. As soon as you notice that critical glance in your staff meeting, take it up at once. Maybe not during the meeting but as soon as possible. Sometimes a simple discussion will clear up the infection.

If by chance you have allowed this problem to go on too long without addressing it, a more formal conversation might be needed. Notes should be taken during the meeting with the staff member. Any agreements about job performance and expectations should be put in writing for future evaluation, if needed.

Have explicit job descriptions and office policies as well as metrics for each job. These key management tools should clearly lay out the benchmarks for job performance for every position in the office.

Have a means for staff to report violations of office policies and/or failure to adequately perform job duties. Keep proper personnel files on all staff members. They should also have all hiring and performance records kept along with them.

Conduct regular job reviews. Review any information in the personnel file as well as reviewing the staff member’s application of their job description and office policies. Lack of adequate productivity should be easily seen through good job reviews.

As needed, there are many other steps that can and should be taken to address problematic staff, such as: disciplinary warnings, suspension, and in the extreme cases, termination.
It is important to know that very rarely does a “staff infection” go unnoticed by the rest of the staff. To some degree, the problematic staff member is slowly infecting the other staff members.

The infection will spread in direct proportion to the owner’s unwillingness to handle the staff member(s) creating the problem. Remember that a “staff infection” very rarely goes away all by itself.

If you feel you would benefit from a one on one consultation on any practice management questions or concerns, please fill out the form on this page and we would be more than willing to assist you.

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